Driver Knowledge Tests

Changing season brings more risks for truck drivers

truck on rural road at speed

Spring came this week, and Daylight Saving is just a month away on October 5th, but both of those mark an increase in risk for truck drivers. Drivers often either work during hours where traffic is minimised (i.e. during the night) so that they make good progress, or they have shifts which vary their start and finish times therefore¬†they have to fight against the body’s natural urge to sleep on a regular frequency and when it’s dark.

When spring comes, the daylight hours begin to get longer and it’s harder to get to sleep and stay asleep when it’s light. There is more activity outside – more people mowing lawns and more general noise as people socialise more outside and have BBQs. As it starts to get warmer in October windows are probably left open and this leads to more noise.

When Daylight Saving arrives there’s an hour difference and this disrupts the sleep cycle, too.

Fatigue leads to inattention and dulled reactions. Drivers can help mitigate this by observing fatigue regulations and advice. Avoiding foods that are known to cause fatigue – foods like sweets and starchy carbohydrates such as white rice, white bread, white pasta and sugar-laden foods such as cakes – will make it easier for your body to regulate the hormones and chemicals that make you want to sleep. These foods play havoc with your blood sugar causing you an almost immediate spike, but a deeper crash afterwards. If you top up your high with more sugary carbs then you enter a vicious cycle that will cause you to gain weight and that will also contribute to your feeling tired.

Drinking caffeinated drinks will give you an initial burst but they can damage your sleeping patterns if drunk in excess.

Foods with a low glycemic index are foods that don’t influence your blood sugar. Whole grains, vegetables, high quality proteins and good fats give the body plenty of nutrients and the right kind of compounds to help keep you going.

If you begin to feel tired, pull over and have a 15-20-minute nap, then wait 10 minutes after waking up before heading off again so that you clear any residual drowsiness. This can count as a full half-hour break in your work schedule and will refresh you. Remember to lock your cab and park in a safe place while you do this – avoid having things stolen from your load.

Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

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Posted in Advice, Heavy Vehicle
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